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Title: The role of glucose-6-phosphatase catalytic domain in glucose homeostasis
Author: Ng, Natasha Hui Jin
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 084X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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Over the past decade, there has been unprecedented increase in the number of genetic loci associating with type 2 diabetes (T2D) risk and related glycemic traits, thanks to advances in sequencing technologies and access to large sample sizes. Identification of associated genetic variants across the frequency spectrum can provide valuable insight into disease pathophysiology. However, the translation into biological insights has been slow often due to uncertainties over the underlying effector transcripts. G6PC2/ABCB11 is one locus characterised by common non-coding variants that are strongly associated with fasting plasma glucose (FG) levels in healthy adults. The work presented in this thesis aims to understand how protein-coding variants in glycemic trait loci such as G6PC2 contribute to the variability of glycemic traits and in addition gain further insight into the physiological role of G6PC2. To evaluate the role of coding variants in glycemic trait variation, an exome array genotyping study of non-diabetic European individuals (n=33,407) reported multiple coding variants in G6PC2 that were independently associated with FG. I designed and conducted in vitro assays to functionally assess these variants and showed that they result in loss of function (LOF) due to reduced protein stability. This established G6PC2 as the effector transcript influencing FG and highlighted a critical role for G6PC2 (encoding the islet-specific glucose-6-phosphatase catalytic subunit) in glucose homeostasis. To investigate the role of low frequency (MAF=1-5%) and rare (MAF<1%) coding variants in influencing glycemic traits, recent large-scale exome array meta-analyses and whole exome sequencing were carried out as part of MAGIC (n=144,060) and the T2D-GENES/GoT2D consortia (n=12,940) respectively. G6PC1, a gene homolog of G6PC2 that primarily acts through the liver, was uncovered as a novel glycemic locus. My functional follow-up studies demonstrated that rare coding variants in G6PC1 exhibited LOF to influence both FG and FI levels. As rare variation in G6PC2 not previously identified could also affect G6PC2 function and modulate glycemic traits, I also functionally characterised a suite of rare non-synonymous G6PC2 variants. Most of the variants tested exhibited markedly reduced protein levels and/or loss of glycosylation. Several variants were also found to impact on enzymatic activity through inactivating or activating mechanisms to influence FG levels. Finally, to gain better understanding of the function of G6PC2 I performed gene knockdown studies in the EndoC-βH1 human beta cell model followed by insulin secretion analyses. G6PC2 knockdown resulted in increased insulin secretion at sub-threshold glucose stimulation levels, consistent with studies in knockout mouse models. In addition, expression of LOF G6PC2 variants were found to upregulate ER stress responses. These results warrant further studies of the precise roles that G6PC2, an ER-resident protein, plays in regulating insulin secretory function and ER homeostasis in the beta cell. Overall, my work described multiple rare coding variants in both G6PC1 and G6PC2 that alter protein function to regulate glucose metabolism through diverse mechanisms in different tissues. Improved understanding of these effector transcripts will open up opportunities for the exploration of new therapeutic targets for glucose regulation and T2D.
Supervisor: Rorsman, Patrik ; Gloyn, Anna L. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Metabolism ; Diabetes ; Genetics ; Endocrinology ; Medical Sciences ; type 2 diabetes ; variant characterisation ; G6PC2 ; glucose-6-phosphatase ; fasting glucose